At Oracle OpenWorld 2007, Oracle announced
VMware-ready software, causing a firestorm of interest that was reflected in
the entire industry, causing a decline in
VMware stocks and raising Oracle stock shares. The Oracle VM software can
be downloaded free, and it's based on the Xen open-source hypervisor
product. With all of the hype, Oracle managers are now struggling to
understand how Oracle VMware can fit into their enterprise. Lets explore how
virtualization is becoming part and parcel of the 21st century
It's back to the future for the Oracle database world. The inefficient
one-server-one-database approach of 1990’s client-server technology is long gone
and Oracle shops are now re-consolidating their data resources, moving back to
the mainframe-like centralization of the 1980’s. While Oracle touts
a latest-and-greatest solution, we need to remember that server virtualization
has been around for decades.
As servers get larger and more powerful, we see a movement
towards “virtualization”, the partitioning of a server in order to host multiple
OS environments. Whether it’s running virtual Windows on your Macintosh laptop
or partitioning a 128 CPU mainframe, IT managers are leveraging VMware solutions
to consolidate multiple OS environments. At a high-level, virtualization is the
processes of segregating server resources in a homogeneous environment, but its
most commonly used to host different operating systems within a single
monolithic server, a step toward OS independence.
A brief history of Oracle VMware
Oracle rose to dominate the database market primarily
because of its ability to run on more than 60 platforms, everything from a
mainframe to a Macintosh, but now Oracle faces the challenge of running multiple
OS environments within the same server. In early 2005, Oracle has announced
that their latest version of
Oracle VMware will come pre-loaded with both Linux and Oracle, making it
easier than ever to run Linux on a MS Windows server.
Oracle has embraced the idea of server consolidation via
the 11g Grid initiative and Oracle noted at
OpenWorld 2007 that 99% of their customers run multiple instances within a
single host machine and they are pushing the VMware solution.
Oracle VMware is free for download, but VMware support will cost 499$/year
for 1 or 2 CPU systems and 999$/year for others.
As of 2007, Oracle VMware is limited to Intel platforms,
and Oracle VM will support only Linux and Windows servers. Oracle VM also
offers a GUI management console (HTML-based) to allow easy management of both
the overall OS and the virtual machines running under the master OS. Oracle is
incorporating VMware along several areas:
- SOA - Oracle plans to incorporate Oracle VMware
into their fusion stack, allowing a method for unifying diverse applications
onto a single server using SOAP. Oracle President Charles Phillips notes
that Oracle VMware will help SAP shops migrate from their foreign ERP's to
Oracle Applications: "We want to help customers integrate their software
with third-party applications made in Germany".
- Consolidating heterogeneous environments -
Oracle VMware is useful for shops that wish to consolidate different
applications onto a single hardware platform. A common example is running
Windows side-by-side with UNIX (HP/UX, Solaris, AIX, Linux) on a large
monolithic server. For example, instead of buying
six 2 CPU servers, you can buy one 4 CPU 64bit server with 16G RAM, and
save a bundle of cash. For details, see my notes on the trend
Oracle server consolidation.
- Oracle OLAP consolidation -
Mark Rittman notes the benefits of running Oracle 10gr2 with VMware with
the Oracle Business Intelligence Suite (OLAP).
- Oracle application server - Oracle Application
Server can be run with Oracle on a single server using VMware. Lt. Col.
Garmany has some good notes on
Oracle App Server and VMware.
- Students - Using VMware is popular among people
who want to learn RAC on a personal computer, whereby VMware can allow a
single server to mimic several RAC nodes.
2nd Age of Mainframe Computing
The early 21st century is seeing
2nd age of mainframe computing, a change away from the minicomputer hardware
architectures of past decades. Instead of small, independent servers, the major
hardware vendors are pushing large servers with transparent sharing of hardware
resources, coining the term “partitionable servers”.
But how does Oracle VMware fit
into these existing virtualization techniques? There are some
shortcomings of Oracle VMware.
- Unshared resources - Server resources cannot be
easily shared, and it counteracts the goal of server consolidation to
leverage on a massive shared computing resource.
- Measurable overhead - We
must remember that Oracle VMware imposes some overhead, and a savvy DBA will
always perform a workload benchmark using other alternatives (containers,
para-virtualization) before choosing Oracle VMware.
- Bad for the DBA job market
- Server consolidation is bad for the DBA job market because one of the main
reasons for consolidation hardware resources is the savings from reducing
Oracle DBA staff. A typical shop can save a million dollars a year by
removing a dozen DBA's. The one-server-one-application paradigm has proven
too expensive (increased staff), they are now moving back to the centralized
architectures of their ancestors:
In sum, Oracle VMware fits
nicely into the strategic plans for server consolidation but the savvy Oracle
professional must recognize the VMware has important benefits and limitations.
It remains to be seen whether VMware will become a permanent part of the data
center, of if VMware will be only used as a stopgap tool for shops that want to
run Windows in a Linux environment.
If you like Oracle tuning, you
might enjoy my book "Oracle
Tuning: The Definitive Reference", with 950 pages of tuning tips and
You can buy it direct from the publisher for 30%-off and get instant
access to the code depot of Oracle tuning scripts.